Bass guitarist Andy Rourke of The Smiths, one of Britain's most influential bands, dies at 59

Andy Rourke, bass guitarist of The Smiths, one of the most influential British bands of the 1980s, has died after a lengthy illness with pancreatic cancer, his former bandmate Johnny Marr said Friday

ByPAN PYLAS Associated Press
May 19, 2023, 6:46 AM
PHOTO: In this Jan. 28, 2019 file photo Andy Rourke attends the 61st Annual Grammy Nominee Celebration at Second in New York City.
In this Jan. 28, 2019 file photo Andy Rourke attends the 61st Annual Grammy Nominee Celebration at Second in New York City.
Walter Mcbride/Getty Images, FILE

LONDON -- Andy Rourke, bass guitarist of The Smiths, one of the most influential British bands of the 1980s, has died after a lengthy illness with pancreatic cancer, his former bandmate Johnny Marr said Friday. He was 59.

In a lengthy post on Instagram, guitarist and songwriter Marr paid tribute to Rourke, who he first met when both were schoolboys in 1975.

“Throughout our teens we played in various bands around south Manchester before making our reputations with The Smiths from 1982 to 1987, and it was on those Smiths records that Andy reinvented what it is to be a bass guitar player," Marr said.

During their short time together as a four-piece band, The Smiths deliberately stayed away from the mainstream of popular music, garnering a cult following on the independent music scene.

Though much of the attention focused on the song-writing partnership of Marr and frontman Steven Patrick Morrissey, better known as Morrissey, the sound of The Smiths owed much to Rourke's bass and his rhythm section partner, drummer Mike Joyce.

As their popularity swelled, the band released some of the most enduring British music of the 1980s, including “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now” and “Girlfriend In A Coma.”

The Smiths songs garnered a reputation of being depressing, but were in fact darkly humorous and accompanied by stirring and uplifting guitars. Their albums, including “The Queen is Dead” and “Meat is Murder,” remain a staple of any self-respecting music fan and are at the forefront of the revival of vinyl records.

“I was present at every one of Andy’s bass takes on every Smiths session," Marr said. “Sometimes I was there as the producer and sometimes just as his proud mate and cheerleader. Watching him play those dazzling baselines was an absolute privilege and genuinely something to behold.”

Marr said he and Rourke maintained their friendship in the years after the band split up, recalling that Rourke played in his band at Madison Square Garden as recently as September 2022.

“It was a special moment that we shared with my family and his wife and soul mate Francesca,” Marr said. “Andy will always be remembered, as a kind and beautiful soul by everyone who knew him, and as a supremely gifted musician by people who love music. Well done Andy. We’ll miss you brother."

After The Smiths, Rourke played alongside The Pretenders and Sinead O’Connor, as well as with the supergroup Freebass, which included Gary Mounfield from the Stone Roses and Peter Hook from New Order.